tv Lectures in History CSPAN March 22, 2015 12:00am-12:36am EDT
i was able to get a copy of the dates i had met -- at least one of the archivists, who was on site at the white house, got me a quick down and dirty -- i am not even sure of it was completed that point -- meetings i had had with the president but it was just literally impossible to separate in my mind for certain what had happened on monday versus another day. i know an author is working right on a book, and there have been a couple of studies about using my testimony versus the actual tapes. one of the things i tried to make pretty clear during my testimony is that i did not believe -- first, my head does not work like a tape recorder. all i could do is characterize. i could remember some lines, you know, like "a cancer on the presidency," because i deliberately intended to say
that before i went in to make sure i had his intention. he seems pretty relaxed and i was in there with a session. but the rest of it was just trying to generally characterize what had happened, because i believed i was taped, i was under testifying because i thought what a great way to hang a witness is on perjury if he is being held to things that are not. i, for example, and afterwards realized i confused something that happened around the 21st with the 17th, but your mind cannot separate those sorts of things when they are all kind of unfolding. moderator: what didn't you testify to? you gave eight hours of testimony. john: in the greater scheme of things, i certainly highlighted everything. i had expected in doing it the way i did it was summarily suggesting -- measuring areas, do cross examination, but they never really got over the bullet points of eight hours of bullet points.
the testimony before -- during the senate -- excuse me, during the u.s. vs. mitchell, haldeman, ehrlichman, et al was a little more piercing and in depth than the senate testimony. as i say, i was just trying to generally draw the picture because i knew at that point -- i thought at that point it was going to be my word against haldeman, ehrlichman, mitchell colson, the president, and, you know, i had no motive to lie about any of these things, which would make it hard for them to accuse me of perjury because i was trained to help the government unravel all of this. moderator: did you anticipate we would one day have tapes to use to judge your testimony? john: yes, i did, i believed i
had been taped on some of the conversations because i could not remember them cold. i could just remember generally what had happened in each one. i could characterize them. i under testified a lot of them. while i remember to more than i testified to, i thought some days are taped, some are not. nixon actually had -- when i mentioned that, i mentioned this to the prosecutors, too. at one point peterson asked to send in one of the tapes, you know dean said he thinks he is has been taped, and nixon said yes, i think that is what he is talking about when i made memos after the fact. moderator: tell me about -- the white house ran a press operation against you, colson did. john: colson did, colson ran that outside the white house. buchanan operated inside the white house and perhaps later. i said you were doing what you expected because he knows he was
being had now, too. as ziegler, who attacked me viciously as well, and later came out and apologized to me personally and said listen, john dean had the answers right, and we did not, so that'll got straightened out. i had a not totally naive believe -- the truth does ultimately come out. sooner or later, it does bubble up. sometimes it takes a long time but i was comfortable that not everybody could be counted on to lie. moderator: what mysteries did you have about the watergate -- what did you want to figure out? john: i do not think there are any unanswered questions today about watergate. they say well, we do not know
why they went in there to break in the dnc, what the motive was for -- that has never been any mystery to me. it was pretty clear to me right away, right after the fact, they were suspicious, and they were trying to find anything they could to discredit o'brien that they could use against him. hunt, in essence, told the cuban-americans just go look for some numbers that might be interesting, contributions from people. he said in particular to see if there were any from castro in cuba because they want to use that to discredit him. looking for things that o'brien might be used to embarrass him. but it was so bungled. here's one of the interesting things about watergate -- so much credence is given to the fact that how could they be so stupid and foolish. well, they were just that stupid and foolish. it was readily apparent within you know, immediately.
first, you look at what they did with the ellsberg break-in. it was stupid and bungled as what happened at the watergate. it was james bond stuff. they thought they were -- how could you walk in with an army of people to do what cat burglars usually do if you were working toward a foreign espionage operation? moderator: when you discussed with magruder, before his grand jury testimony, you talked to him, some people use the word coached him, did he know what had happened? john: oh, absolutely. i did not have to coach him. what he wanted to do with me which they at one point said was my supporting his perjury. which it wasn't. i said the only thing i will do, jeb, is tell you things that will be asked by the prosecutors. i do not even care by your answers, i do not want to hear your answers, but that is what i did with him. i gave him sort of a drilling as
to the sort of things he could anticipate he would be asked. moderator: and he told you that mitchell had ordered it. john: he told me that within several days after the break-in. moderator: and he did not say that haldeman had ordered it? john: no. he thought that strachan might be aware, but he did not know that haldeman had ordered it. moderator: and he did not know that strachan had ordered it? john: no. but he knew generally. moderator: mitchell ultimately owned up to it. john: late in the game, when i went to the meeting with prosecutors in early april
where i had my lawyer go down and start talking to them, say you have got a very unhappy witness, and it is my feeling that i can convince -- if the white house knows i am going to break rank, i at this time -- for example, take haldeman. i feel haldeman is the straight, honorable guy that rather than let the president go down, he will stand up and account for himself what he did right, what he did wrong. ehrlichman i am not so sure about, but i'm sure if the two of us go and mitchell goes, then it will pull it away from nixon and nixon may survive. i am not out to nail nixon initially. it is only when they decided to go to war with me that i said you picked the wrong guy, and i'm willing to do battle. moderator: what is the line, what is the red line? when you decided they have gone to war with you? john: when they put out a
statement that intimates that. in fact, i think i can track that back down. i never talked to the press, refused to, never did never did during my time as a witness, either. i did learn later that one of my lawyers did so, much to my chagrin, which charlie, my principal lawyer and i suspected, but he did it without my authority, and i was able to justify to the senate. i suspected who was leaking this but i cannot tell the prosecutor, my lawyer, what have you. while i was still in the white
house, i said that -- if they think i ll be there scapegoat, they picked the wrong guy. moderator: when does mitchell talk to you about -- john: late april when i am dealing with the prosecutors and i have told mitchell that i'm going to, you know, anybody i had any respect for, eyeball to eyeball, here is what i'm going to do, here is why i'm going to do it, here is what i hope will happen. next thing, i know you're not going to like it, we can all account for ourselves because we made mistakes and it is time to clean this up. as a result of that, mitchell arranges a meeting with haldeman. actually, i am at camp david at the time this first comes up. i am at camp david and mitchell asked that i come down to camp david and meet with him and
magruder because my testimony is different. when jeb had talked to me on the telephone and said here is what mitchell and i told the grand jury, which i had no idea, that there is going to be one meeting in mitchell's office with liddy, and the other one had been canceled, it was not true. he said well, you knew it was going to happen. i did not know that was going to happen. i did not know what the testimony with one to become and i thought that was stupid, but anyway, they said well, how will you testify? i said if they say when did you meet on liddy's plans, i will tell them one i met. this created the first problem for mitchell. moderator: were they going to say that liddy did this all by himself and that there was never a second meeting that had never been authorized? john: yes, that is what they had done originally. mitchell and magruder both testified in the first grand jury that resulted in the trial, and the convention of liddy,
hunt, and the americans in the accord, so my testimony differs with theirs. i went down over to haldeman's office, and he said that john wants to meet with you, and he said what are you guys go down and meet in chapin's office which was empty, so i did. next thing i was going to do, i said i was not going to lie to anybody, i said this is going to come out, you had better clean this up sooner rather than later. whatever you tell them. i do not know. and mitchell was very unhappy with it. i said john, i have never asked you -- talking about the third meeting, which i learned about later, where he had actually approved where magruder has said he approved liddy's plans, i said i never asked you if you had approved the ladies plans --
approved liddy's plans. and he said i didn't. he was trying to put more pressure on me to live for him. i testify that way about the meeting for the senate. haldeman denied it. haldeman did not necessarily add anything to it. when haldeman years later published his diaries, he had reported that before i met with mitchell, mitchell to his surprise after he had stonewalled him, right after the break in, is when haldeman asked him again if he had indeed approved liddy's plans, mitchell had acknowledged to haldeman that he had done so, which is pretty solid corroboration. moderator: you never saw richard nixon again. john: i never did. i would not have had any problem with it, but he would have. his personality, it would have
been difficult. in the memoirs are pretty curious. he at one point says how much he likes me and respects me in the memoirs, but then i lied before the senate and the problem is that he had lied more than i had. no. i do not know what he -- this is when they were nitpicking and using minor problems in my getting one thing on one date wrong with another date, which -- moderator: you and your blind ambition get the notion that the president's own knowledge of watergate is always shifting. he knows that there is a cover-up and is engaged in it, but that he is forgetting things. is it just to put it on the record that you have to remind him, or do you think somehow he is not fully processing everything that is going on? john: i think it is a little bit of both. i think there are times that he clearly knows things that he is
not telling me about. for example, in one conversation, i tell him about the firebombing of the brookings where i'd flown out to california and turned that break in off, and he absolutely says nothing about it. well, years later i discovered there was a recording of him literally pounding on the desk demanding that break in, so that is not something new to him at that point, so he just lets this passage is not react to it. he claims that the first time he learned about the ellsberg break-in is from me in one of my conversations. i think it is about the march 17 conversation. that is hard for me to believe that i am the first one i told him about that.
that is the real, true core of the reason that the cover-up is going on. i cannot believe he does not see that that implicates ehrlichman, if not haldeman and himself, while the watergate only implicates mitchell. moderator: tell us about the data he wanted you to sign a resignation letter that basically was a confession. john: that was a curious morning. that was when, april 16 as i recall, 1973. moderator: the day after -- john: he says -- he tells me that ehrlichman and haldeman had given him letters that he can just have and that he needs them, they are resignations so they are ready to resign, and he said he would like the same from me. well, i took one scan of the
letters, and they are, in essence, confessions. i said let me take these and look at them and i will come back with you with another draft of something for you. what i now know today is that ehrlichman had prepared the letters, and after my meeting with him, haldeman and ehrlichman come in the other door and said boy, i really socked it to dean, and it was just the opposite. in fact, i was surprised that the leader of the western world back down as quickly as i backed him down on that. moderator: when did you begin to view the president as an adversary? john: not until after the -- i broke rank with the prosecutors. when they -- when it was clear you could tell from the internal operations after i had -- he had the benefit of what i was testifying about.
there were growing efforts at that time, publicly discrediting him. moderator: this in early april. john: yeah. no. this was in early may at this time. by the time you get to may 22, may 22 statement, which to me was the last -- this is when he was going to lay out everything he knew when he knew it, while he does not directly attacked me, he makes claims like i was the first one who told him on the point second, and lays out a scenario of events that this makes it clear that he is going to go toe to toe with me on my version versus his version. moderator: because he has already asked for your resignation, you have resigned already. john: right. moderator: how long did you spend in prison? john: believe it or not, i never went to prison. i was one of the few who confessed, i pleaded guilty, i was initially sentenced to one year to four years, but i was in
the witness protection program and i was sent to a facility, a witness protection facility outside of washington at an old deserted army base, fort holabird and prosecutor cox had spent some pretty good intelligence from the fbi that they were a good number of death threats out for me, and they asked me if i would go into the witness protection program because they wanted to keep the government's star witness alive and sam dash, also, was aware of the threats, and he counseled charlie. i really did not want. i think if somebody is out to get you, they are going to get you, but i agreed to it at that time and had them with me for a year almost, you know, and when
it came time to start serving, the prosecutors wanted me to surrender just before the trial so i was there, but rather than go to a jail, i was in a witness protection facility. actually some of the other witnesses who were serving hard time, if you will, colson and magruder had gone up to this witness protection facility as well. i did 120 days there. most days i went into washington, wore a suit and jacket everyday, and the time in the prosecutors office, and in about a week before my testimony, i stopped going into the office to just sort of have a break before i testified so they could not say that they were influencing my testimony. after my testimony, jim neal wanted me right back in the courthouse in the room the special prosecutors were occupying because particularly as they prepared cross examinations, they did not have
computers then. i was there computer for information, reactions, so i was determined once i got started on this road to do everything i could in my power. moderator: how did you feel -- i mean, you had worked with these people. john: bad. it was not pleasant. but i told them, as i say, went to mitchell, went to haldeman, others, i said this is very painful, but it is the only way this going to end. and it is the only way it did end. and actually, that is another thing, i should say, nixon that was the conversation on the 15th, which is probably the most interesting of all of my taste very long session. moderator: it sounds like you had personal conversations with most of these men, with the exception of president nixon after. john: afterwards. you're as they come i ran into haldeman when he was working for
a fellow by the name of murdoch, a developer in los angeles. and we were going to have lunch. we never did. we had a nice exchange in the hall. i was coming down an elevator, and he was coming on, and i was seeing someone, and we just had a brief reunion. we never did. next thing i knew, he had stomach cancer and passed away. ehrlichman i first ran into and we shared the same publisher up in new york, and when i years later filed a lawsuit for some defamation over my role, particularly dragging my wife into watergate, i deposed ehrlichman because he was helping that cause. colson -- colson and i buried the hatchet when he showed up at fort holabird when i was there. he sort of apologize for what he
tried to do. he said you knew john more than i did about a lot of these things, and i said that is probably true, which was sort of the mechanics that he was up to his eyeballs, and he was going to be -- he was indicted for both the ellsberg break-in as well as for watergate, and in looking at some of the memos in the prosecutors office, it is clear they were also considering a number of perjury charges against him in addition to that when he pleaded and they created a unique single count offense for him to plead to, sort of an obstruction of justice in relationship to the ellsberg case, so he still claims to the state he really did not know as much as he did about watergate. but he and i, i was surprised that some of the cheap shots he had taken, notwithstanding his newfound, or now it is matured christian beliefs, and we have exchanged mail a couple of times
on that. moderator: had you interacted with jeb before his recent illness? john: i had seen jeb, yes. chatted with him, friendly, had a nice report. i was not particularly close to jeb. butterfield is who i see the most who i knew then. moderator: you do not agree with jeb's recent testimony that the president and haldeman ordered the break in. john: i was around when jeb first broke the story for a document or he was working on. i participated in the documentary as someone on camera as well. and i do not know how mitchell could have had the phone to his ear and jeb could hear the president approved to mitchell or tell him to go ahead with the program.
i just do not know how you do that. and i do not know why jeb and have never shared that with somebody along the way, so as i say come i have always had difficulty. if he believes that, i do not doubt that he believes it, but i'm not sure whether it is a recovered memory that might have gotten destroyed. i have always been suspicious of memory, my own included. while i was able to testify in great detail before the senate and repeat that testimony many times, it was refresh recollection just by the process of preparing testimony, but who knows what influences shape our memories and so, eyewitness testimony is typically the worst. moderator: were you noted for having a good memory as a kid? john: i never had a -- i both had a -- i had always been a great crammer. i could read and retain. moderator: last question -- what do you remember of august 9, 1974? where were you? john: i had had two wisdom teeth pulled that day, and i was like
a chipmunk and watch those proceedings with a little extra throbbing. it was sad. it was a sad day. it was to me one of nixon's really most eloquent decisions because he saved the country a lot of agony. the decision, one, to turn over the tapes when the court ordered because he theoretically could have said i regret that i have to deny the court. i am a constitutional code equal. i happen to have the army, they do not have anybody to enforce that action, but he did not. he willingly complied with it, and of course he was out a few days later. and that resignation spared the impeachment trial, which would have been, you know, i certainly was not looking forward to it. i would have been a key witness in the preceding again. so that was one of his great --
obviously one of the most difficult decisions and one of his great decisions. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> to watch the first part of this interview or to watch this portion again, visit our website at c-span.org/history. together with our cable partners, we recently visited a site, exploring columbus georgia's history. rebecca bush: we here at the columbus museum at the
chattachoochee legacy gallery. it focuses on the history of columbus and its highlights from the prehistoric. -- three historic -- prehistoric period to modern-day. we are standing in the gallery that deals with the civil war. columbus was significant during the civil war for many reasons. it was the second-largest manufacturing center for the confederacy. however, many residents of columbus also left to fight in the war and this jacket we are standing by was worn by a resident. this is an iconic red jacket that was born by the columbus guards. this is one of the cities
private militia companies. these organizations were common throughout the south in the 19th century. it was mainly a way for elite white southern men to socialize but also come together in a fraternal organization. their activities are limited to military drills and social gatherings. during the war, many companies were actually called into action and thought as representatives of their towns. the columbus guards was started during the second creek war and continue to be active until world war i. immediately after the civil war they chose to wear a bright red jacket. the red jacket has a red and ivory color scheme. the ivory portion is a bib which is attached by the many buttons
on the side. these buttons are one-of-a-kind. there is no record of them being used by any other military organization in the united states. if you look closely, they depict an eagle with a "cg" stamped in the middle. they were a unique creation of the columbus guards. this is the only known example of a red jacket from the columbus guards. it was worn by a member of columbus who grew up a couple miles from the museum. he left to serve in 1861. we know it belonged to him just before he left because he wrote his name. we have a picture of the inscription inside the jacket.
watkins banks. this is what banks and other members of the guard would have marched out wearing before they changed into regular confederate uniforms. it is worth noting that the for the war began officially, the columbus guards were invited to be the bodyguards of jefferson davis when he was inaugurated as the disc -- as the confederacy's first and only president. they marched to montgomery alabama, wearing these jackets where they were photographed and talks about in many newspapers. we are standing in the portion of the gallery that details columbus' long mill history. it was founded in 1828. its first mill was founded the same year.
we are looking at a terry towel loom, that was used in columbus. this loom would have been used throughout the 1980's -- the 1880's, and it still has fabric on it. just from the basic cloth although is the finished terry towel product. in addition to mass production, this mill actually had a company store where residents of columbus could come in and directly purchase towels and fabric from the mill form. 'columbus -- columbus' location makes it perfect for mills. when union forces came through they destroyed many of the cities manufacturing centers to
help shut that confederate production. after the war, columbus rebuilt quickly with more mills than ever before. the majority of mills in columbus were caught mills so they were producing clothing towels jeans, there also a rosary mills. -- hoisery mills. these names and their buildings can still be seen all over the landscape. they are loss, -- lofts offices, even centers. here we have several artifacts related to the life of tom wiggins -- otherwise known as blind tom. [piano playing]
he was born on a plantation near columbus and, after his birth it was discovered he was blind and mute. [piano continues] although the terminology of the time first to him as a dumb, but today recognize him as autistic -- specifically an autistic savant. he had a remarkable talent for mimicry. he was able to reproduce any sound or voice he heard in nature or man-made. [piano continues] he displayed a remarkable talent for music, being able to reproduce songs he heard just once on the pno, despite having
very little formal training. his owners quickly realized the child they had on their hands and had him begin giving concerts in columbus. eventually, they toured him around the south and the country. wiggins also wrote music. this piece here is one of his earliest pieces of sheet music. you can see at the top, it says tom, the blind negro boy pianist , only 10 years old. we have an image of him here. he was most often photographed and drawn with his eyes closed. he continued to tour internationally, even after the civil war. however, through a